Specially structured bird of paradise feathers function like a "black hole"

January 15, 2018 by  
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Scientists have discovered that bird of paradise feathers are physically structured in such a way as to absorb nearly all light that reaches them, much like a black hole. Viewers of the acclaimed nature documentary series Planet Earth may recall the bird of paradise from its featured segment, in which male members of the species display their pitch-black feathers, punctuated with spots of vibrant color, while they dance in hopes of attracting a mate. These feathers are not simply a darker shade of black. In fact, their physical structure enables a level of near-total light absorption that is rare in the animal kingdom. Optical measurements of the bird of paradise feathers indicate that they are capable of absorbing 99.95% of light that reaches it, a similar level of light absorption to man-made ultra-black materials such as the lining of telescopes. “ Evolution sometimes ends up with the same solutions as humans,” said senior author and Yale professor Rick Prum, according to Phys.org . The super-black feathers, coupled with patches of bright color, function as an evolved optical illusion. “An apple looks red to us whether it is sitting in the bright sunlight or in the shade because all vertebrate eyes and brains have special wiring to adjust their perception of the world according to ambient light,” said co-lead author Dakota “Cody” McCoy. “Birds of paradise, with their super-black plumage, increase the brilliance of adjacent colors to our eyes, just as we perceive the red even though the apple is in the shade.” Related: Birds that escape from captivity teach wild birds how to speak (and swear) in English The difference between regular feathers and super-black feathers is found in the structure of the main stem and barbs in the feather. Where regular feather has single barbs attached to the main stem, super-black feathers have many spines that serve to create a dense thicket of feathers. “When you have no flat surfaces, the light gets completely absorbed by the feather,” said McCoy, according to Gizmodo . While these feathers are unusually effective at absorbing light , the light-absorption effect is most strong when seen from directly ahead. Still, the biologically developed super-blackness may offer lessons to engineering humans. “Sexual selection has produced some of the most remarkable traits in nature,” Prum said, according to Phys.org . “Hopefully, engineers can use what the bird of paradise teaches us to improve our own human technologies as well.” Via Gizmodo and Phys.org Images via Ed Shoales/Birds-of-Paradise Project and Yale University

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Specially structured bird of paradise feathers function like a "black hole"

Denmark is cleaning up US pollution in Greenland

January 15, 2018 by  
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Denmark is cleaning up the United State’s mess – literally. Half a century ago, the US abandoned several military bases in Greenland, leaving behind toxic pollution . Now, the Danish government announced that it will foot the bill to clean it up, to the tune of $30 million dollars. After World War II , the US didn’t need it’s Greenland military bases anymore, so it abandoned them without cleaning up after themselves. Since then, Greenland has petitioned Denmark, which controlled the island as a colony during WWII, to clean up the pollution or request that the US do so. It appears that Denmark has opted for the former, and they signed a document last week committing to the cleanup process. Related: Greenland’s ice is melting faster than previously thought Although the extent of the remaining pollution remains unclear, it includes things like 100,000 oil drums at one airfield. Other bases contain radioactive and toxic materials, but those bases aren’t covered under this agreement. The current funding likely won’t cover the entire cleanup efforts, but Denmark has stated that it will make more money available if necessary. For now, specialists will take a look at the sites and determine just how much cleanup is necessary. Via Arctic Now Images via Wikimedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Denmark is cleaning up US pollution in Greenland

How scaly dinosaurs turned into feathery birds – new gene study offers clues

November 29, 2017 by  
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Dinosaurs no longer roam the planet – unless you count birds . Recent discoveries have revealed many dinosaurs once had feathers , and birds are actually dinosaurs that have evolved over time. But we don’t really know how feathers evolved. A recent study led by University of Southern California (USC) researchers involving alligator and chicken genes may offer new insight. Feathers and scales are comprised of keratin, and both are part of skin growth, so scientists have surmised they might have a shared evolutionary history. But the nature of that history is still a mystery. A dinosaur unearthed in 2014 in Siberia appeared to possess feather-like filaments, some growing out of scales – leading researchers to think feather-like structures might have evolved from modified scales. So the USC-led team took genes they think might be important in the development of feathers and had them expressed in chicken and alligator embryos while feathers and scales, respectively, developed. They also identified new genes that regulate the development genes and altered the amount of their activity, according to The Guardian . Related: New details of feathered dinosaur could elucidate the origins of flight The researchers produced new types of modified scales, revealing relatively simple changes to some genes can cause alligator early scale development to produce things like the ancestral feathers of non-avian dinosaurs. The Guardian said it’s not a large step from the feather-like structures to something similar to a true early feather. Add the idea that early proto-feathers that gave advantages to their owners would have developed more under natural selection , and it’s not a massive leap to suggest feathers could have formed rather easily. Modifying genes in chickens led to an array of feather forms, including ones seen in dinosaurs, narrowing the gap between feather and scale from a creature with feathers. We still have a long way to go in our understanding, but this recent work could offer some clues. More gene tweaks could potentially reveal the pathway from scale to feather. The journal Molecular Biology and Evolution published the research this month; scientists from institutions in Taiwan, China, and Louisiana contributed to the work. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and PublicDomainPictures.net

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How scaly dinosaurs turned into feathery birds – new gene study offers clues

Afghan Police Shoot Endangered Bird They Thought Was Wearing a Bomb

December 2, 2014 by  
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On a weekend in America dedicated to eating dead birds, an innocent and endangered bird became the most recent victim of Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban . Motherboard reports that on Saturday Afghan police killed a “suspicious-looking” bird on a roadside because it was wearing an antenna, which they saw as a sign the bird could be wearing a bomb. Read the rest of Afghan Police Shoot Endangered Bird They Thought Was Wearing a Bomb Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: afghan , afghan police shoot endangered bird , afghanistan , bird , bomb , Emirates Center for Conservation of Houbara , endangered , houbara , police , roadside , shoot , taliban , Uzbekistan , Wildlife conservation

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Afghan Police Shoot Endangered Bird They Thought Was Wearing a Bomb

Providence’s Hummingbird Palace Will be Blooming Gorgeously for Years

September 3, 2014 by  
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Blending modern sculpture with the beauty of the natural world, The Hummingbird Palace is a large outdoor installation created by Esther Solondz that will evolve and change over time. Thin welded steel rods and translucent threads form the main structure of the 15-foot-tall piece, giving it the appearance of spun sugar. After the frame was built, flowering perennials and annuals were planted along its base, as well as around its boundary fence. Since the sculpture is built to look like a giant lattice, it’s a perfect support structure for flowering vines to grow and twine through. All the vines chosen attract various species of hummingbirds, so the piece not only becomes a living piece of art; it also provides a vital habitat for these little flying wonders. The Hummingbird Palace will be left to evolve indefinitely, so visitors can enjoy its ever-changing nature for years to come. + The Hummingbird Palace + Esther Solondz Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: avian , avian habitat , bird , birds , Esther Solondz , habitat , hummingbird , Hummingbird Palace , hummingbird species , Hummingbirds , pollinators , providence , rhode island , sculpture , sculptures , vines

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Providence’s Hummingbird Palace Will be Blooming Gorgeously for Years

FLAP is Making Canada’s Buildings Safer for Birds

July 11, 2014 by  
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It’s estimated that between 1 and 10 migratory birds die per building, per year… and in an average city, that means a lot of bird deaths . Toronto alone has over 950,000 registered buildings, which together post a threat to over 9 million birds annually, and a recent research article found that somewhere between 100 million and 1 billion migrating birds die from colliding with buildings in North America each year. FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) is aiming to change that, by ensuring that new buildings have bird-friendly glass installed, and older buildings are retrofitted with it. Read the rest of FLAP is Making Canada’s Buildings Safer for Birds Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bird , bird death , bird deaths , bird fatalities , bird safe , bird safe buildings , bird safety , birds , buildings , flap , glass , grosbeaks , migratory bird , migratory birds , orioles , Ornilux , songbird , songbirds , sparrows , subtropical birds , tit

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FLAP is Making Canada’s Buildings Safer for Birds

Robo Raven Robot Can Flap its Wings Like a Real Bird

June 25, 2013 by  
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Engineers have already managed to build robots that glide , run , and buzz . Now two professors from the University of Maryland Robotics Center have created a robot that is able to fly by flapping its wings independently of one another. Their “Robo Raven” is the result of a decade of prototypes, and it can soar in all types of weather conditions. Before the Robo Raven, most flying machines could only stay in the air below wind speeds of 10 mph. Using its wings to adjust like its living counterpart, the Robo Raven can withstand turbulence – and it can be programmed with motion profiles so that the wings can maintain optimal velocity and balance while in flight. Read the rest of Robo Raven Robot Can Flap its Wings Like a Real Bird Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: 3d print , bird , flap , fly , hugh bruck , laser cut , polymer , robo raven , robotics center , s.k. gupta , University of Maryland , wings        

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Robo Raven Robot Can Flap its Wings Like a Real Bird

Bird Uses Bread to Lure Fish, Just Like A Human (Video)

September 7, 2011 by  
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Image via video screengrab We have a category of posts around here that we writers affectionately call “Oh! Shiny!” posts. This admittedly falls into that category, but it doesn’t make this bird any less awesome. The bird has learned to use pieces of bread left by humans to lure fish in so it can catch them. Watch it in action. … Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Bird Uses Bread to Lure Fish, Just Like A Human (Video)

Fishing Charter Boat Captain Sings the Deepwater Disaster Blues (Video)

May 13, 2010 by  
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There’s an increasing amount of good video coming out of the Gulf documenting the BP Oil Spill, including some dramatic aerial footage yesterday. That was literally the bird’s eye perspective

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Fishing Charter Boat Captain Sings the Deepwater Disaster Blues (Video)

What’s Crazier, 9% of Americans Thinking Enviros Caused the Oil Spill or 22% Being Not Sure?

May 13, 2010 by  
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data source: Public Policy Polling Just check this one out. My head’s spinning at the sheer craziness of it

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What’s Crazier, 9% of Americans Thinking Enviros Caused the Oil Spill or 22% Being Not Sure?

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